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Indiana Football Head Coach Tom Allen Press Conference 10.26.2020

by | Oct 26, 2020 | Football Blogs, Headlines | 0 comments

Head Coach Tom Allen
Opening Statement…
ALLEN: I appreciate everybody being here today. I am very excited about our football team’s opportunity that we took advantage of on Saturday. I am really proud of our players for competing for 60 minutes and beyond, believing, and finding a way to win a very challenging game and knowing who Penn State is and the talent that they have and their coaching staff. I am proud of the just ability to stay with it no matter what happened, good or bad. Even if things in the fourth quarter did not go as planned.

We do want to start by congratulating some worthy individuals here with the I Association Awards. Don Croftcheck is one of the Clevenger Award recipients. We very much appreciate him, his contributions, and everything he has done as both a player and now as an alumnus of our program. Bill Lynch won the Orwig Award. I have so much respect for Coach Lynch and the man that he is, the coach that he is, and the person that he is. His entire family, I have so much respect for them. So, I just wanted to congratulate those two individuals. Then also we had Jamar Johnson winning the Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, that just came out, for his performance. He had the huge interception and forced fumble, and added several tackles.

I am really excited about our football team. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do as we made a lot of mistakes in the first game. But we played with tremendous effort, toughness, grit, and belief.

Q: On adjustments made by Michael Penix Jr.
ALLEN: We had receivers open early on and he missed some of those. It is a combination of that and the pressure. He was under a lot of pressure. We did not play well on the offensive line, and that created a lot of issues in both the run game in the pass game. I do not think he could ever really get comfortable in the pocket, and I think he was not as accurate as we know he is always. That was definitely missing open receivers, but there are variables that come into that. He has not played in a game for a long time. We do not know all the exact reasons why, sometimes you go through it and you have things that you think might be the reason why. For me, it is a lot of variables. Their defense is extremely athletic in their front and their linebackers, they bring a lot of pressure. They never let [Penix] get comfortable. That is not really something that he has struggled with in the past, he has usually handled that pretty well. I think even at the end he was still getting pressured. On that last drive, he made some amazing throws. Sometimes I think you overthink things. Because we kept having three-and-outs and not getting any rhythm offensively, he just never really got a chance to be who we all know he is until that final drive when he looked the way that I see every day in practice. I think it is a whole, collective group and I think the timing and chemistry of an offensive group… every year is a new year. We do have some new pieces, for sure. The more we do this, as that game wore on, obviously, we, played a whole lot different there at the final few snaps when we needed to. We always talked about being at your best when it means the most. That is what he was. I think that is something I expect to see moving forward and we just have to just keep getting better. That is what this is all about.

Q: On the defensive effort…
ALLEN: I thought that they really played well. I said that afterwards and after watching the film it confirmed that. We still made mistakes defensively and disappointing that last touchdown that we gave up in regulation. Not the one that we allowed them to score but the long pass, you hate to do that. We had three minutes to go in a game that we were up 20-14 and we have to finish it. The defense has to have that mindset that we are going to finish the game. Other than that, I thought we tackled pretty well. We created three takeaways. The effort was awesome throughout the game. By [the offense] not staying on the field, it puts a lot of pressure on defense. We played way too many snaps on defense but we played a lot of guys. That is our philosophy and it definitely was a huge benefit for us on Saturday being able to do that. We definitely need to stay on the field. That is a big reason why defenses have more successes. When they have a chance to get fewer snaps. Sometimes that is self-inflicted where you do not get off the field but sometimes if your offense is not moving the ball, like we were not for the majority of the game. The thing that our offense did that I was so encouraged about was we scored; we were 5-for-5 in the red zone on touchdowns. That, to me, was the difference in the game. We did not get there enough, so that is where the pressure by not sustaining drives puts that on the defense and all those things. We need to be working both sides together. We have to get to that point and that did not happen during the game. That is what we are working towards is to be able to have all three phases working together, even though special teams did a lot of great things, as well.

Q: On the last 24-36 hours…
ALLEN: it has been crazy, I can confirm that, but a good kind of crazy. It has been hard to sleep, for good reasons. My mind was just racing, my phone was blowing up with a lot of people reaching out congratulating us. A lot of individuals that throughout my whole career, all the way back to high school and college, and all the stops where I was coaching and all the different places all the places we have been as a college coach. Everybody has reached out and I am trying to respond to those as best I can. The media, obviously, is wanting to be able to set things up. There was so much excitement. Even when I woke up this morning it was still kind of a ‘wow’ because you work so hard for something for so long, and we have been so close in so many of these games where you have a lot of that same feeling at the end and have not been able to experience what we were able to experience on Saturday. But you have to come down and you have to get back to work. I think by yesterday afternoon when we met as a staff, had our evaluations done, talked it through and all that, but you have to learn to manage all this. The earmuffs and blinders are not just for the negative noise. It is also for the positive things that that you have to learn to manage and then sometimes you have to learn to ignore those as well. Everything is created by a certain method and process you go through to put yourself in that position. That is how that game was created over time, it has been several years in the making. To be able to have that opportunity, then then it becomes a reality, now you are going to handle that. We talked about 1-0 offensively, we talked about not blinking. Well, I said those do not just apply to negative situations. Those also apply to how you handle success. Sometimes that can be even harder, because the natural tendency is to do certain things when things go your way. We have to fight that. We have to be very focused. We have to be very laser-like in our intentions. But you know you want to enjoy it. It is hard to win games. It is tough. You cannot let it lose your focus on your next one, but I told our players and our coaches to enjoy this because this was a long time in the making. We wanted to enjoy it. That is in the past. We are ready to get to work, ready for Rutgers.

Q: On the first game…
ALLEN: I was concerned about tackling going into the game. I thought against some really talented running backs and skilled players that overall, we had good solid tackling. I would not say it was perfect tackling but it was very good solid tackling. That is something that keeps you up at night. I would say that with a lot of new faces in some spots on special teams, and with a new special team’s coordinator, I thought our special teams play was very good. A couple freshmen, AJ Barner and Bryson Bonds, did a tremendous job on our hammer team, which is our kickoff cover unit. Bryson was part of that play on the five-yard line and just the tone that AJ set, they go tight end that is physical, and AJ just set the tone. Those, to me, are pleasant surprises, you want those guys to step up. Guys like Javon Swinton, I have mentioned him several times, he had nine snaps in the game and two of the biggest catches of the game in the final drive to go score to tie it up. I think about Jacolby Hewitt, all he has been through, he had an ACL injury a year ago. This was his first college football game and he made the biggest catch. You watch that throw from Michael Penix Jr. on film, he got hit, it is a tiny, tiny window and it was an amazing catch by a young man, Jacolby, that has overcome so much. So those kinds of things where Javon has not played in college game before either so to be put in those kinds of situations and make those plays is very pleasant. You want those things for these guys because they work hard, especially Jacolby with overcoming an injury. I was disappointed in our offensive line. I am just going to call what it is. I just did not think we played as well as I believe we can. I was disappointed in that and I think it affected our whole offense and just the whole execution. I just wanted to point it out and I am not going to say anything is just not true. We talked about it as a staff. We are very open and honest with each other so those are things we have to fix. It was the first game; things happen and they do things different than you think they might do they do on offense. You are trying to go back and figure out what you think they are going to do. You have a new coordinator, even if it is the same coordinator, it is a whole new year and they can add new things. You just have to be able to adapt. You talk all the time about 60 minutes and beyond and once again, there you go, first game of the year, overtime. The way we got to overtime was just a crazy set of circumstances. Somebody sent this to me, I did not see it during the game, but ESPN has that system where it says at a certain point of the game what percent a team has at winning the game. When they got the ball after our offense did not convert on fourth down with a minute left, they had a 99.9% chance that Penn State wins the game. We talked about that with our team. We had a 0.1% chance of winning that game but you have to just keep competing and obviously we never knew what those numbers were at the time and yeah it did look bleak. You can talk about it all you want but when you experience that type of situation, find a way to finish the game and win the game, it is a powerful thing. It is great for our kids, they deserved it because they work so hard and I am so proud of them. It is a crazy game we play and the ball can bounce a lot of different ways, you can do a lot of great things and still come short. We did a lot of things wrong as well but just really encouraged by the ability to focus when it counted the most and make those plays. That kind of summarizes all the different things of a game like that that are different than you expected. A lot of situations were created and we got to work through them as a team.

Q: On the coverage on the long Penn State touchdown…
ALLEN: One of our safeties was supposed to be the middle player, but he bit on a shallower concept that, in that situation, you cannot bite on. It was blown coverage. We go through and evaluate that situation versus that formation, do you want to be in that particular call? We evaluate that as a staff and we talked about that with our players. In that particular call the person was supposed to be on that area of the field was underneath that receiver and by quite a bit, enough to where it was like ‘where is he is at’. I saw it unfolding and knew it was not good. Not the execution you want that situation. To me, it should never get to that point but that is what happened.

Offensive Coordinator Nick Sheridan
Q. On the first-game offensive problems…
SHERIDAN: Certainly, we did not play well for a large portion of the game. Obviously, proud on how they finished and how the guys kept battling. Are there things schematically that Penn State did that we can do better as coaches to put our players in good positions, without a doubt. I think you are going to say that every week that there are some things that you wish you could make easier for the players. We need to execute better. We need to coach better. Ultimately, that falls on my shoulders. Our execution was not the level we had seen in camp and certainly not at the level that we expect our guys to do. So, we need to coach better. That starts with me and then certainly, I know the players are going to take responsibility for the things that they feel like they can improve on and do a better job of. I fully expect us to do that.

Q. On when Coach Allen told you that you were going for two and the options available…
SHERIDAN: I cannot tell you the exact time that Coach Tom Allen communicated that to us but I certainly know it was not a rushed decision. It was something that had been communicated. I am trying to reflect back on that. Cannot tell you the exact time. I just know it was communicated ahead of time. On that particular play there is a lot of options without getting into too much detail because we might run the play again. We try to put our best players having an opportunity to touch the ball and obviously, Michael Penix Jr. understood the situation and the ball is automatically in his hand because he is the quarterback. It was a pass play. Had options. Had some of our best players as being primary targets in the concept and then obviously, Mike created the play, which he knows in that situation sometimes that is required of the quarterback is to make something happen. He certainly did. I think in those situations you always think of players. You try to put your best players with an opportunity to touch the ball. Certainly, we are fortunate that one of our best players touches the ball as soon as the ball is snapped. He did a great job there and made a phenomenal play. We are thankful for that.

Q. On how you go about evaluating your performance as a coach…
SHERIDAN: Certainly, as I mentioned earlier the performance of the offense falls on my shoulders. I first look at myself in ways that I could be better. I think when you evaluate yourself as a play caller you are trying to see if the plays that you called schematically are sound that if the players executed at the level that you are expecting them to, do we have a good play? If we block the right people, if we run the correct routes, if we make the right reads, if we executed at the level we expect, is it sound schematically? Are we having people accounted for in the run game? Do we have receivers open in the throw game? Are we protected the correct way? Without a doubt, there are plays at every game you look back and you say “I wish I had called something else.” I think there is always that. That is going to happen every game. There are however many plays, 60, 70 maybe 80 snaps. There is always going to be games, every game, you are going to look back and say “Man, I wish I would have called something different there.” There were plenty of plays where I felt comfortable with the call and we needed to execute a little better and there are plenty of plays I felt like I can do a better job. I could put our players in a better position to be successful and you are constantly evaluating that. You are trying to be your toughest critic. You are open for suggestions from the other staff because they can see it from a different lens. We had communication yesterday on things that we would have done differently, could have done differently, to try to make it easier on the players. Then, there are sometimes the players got to execute better, too, and they know that. We communicate that very clearly and very honestly with the players. Ultimately, the performance of the offense falls on my shoulders and starts with the play call. Obviously, it ends with the execution. Did we execute the play properly? In some cases, we did. In some cases, we did not.

Defensive Coordinator Kane Wommack
Q. On C.J. Person as a defensive end…
WOMMACK: We are really excited about the way we are able to package our defense right now based off the personnel grouping that is out there on the field. When Penn State got into some heavier formations C.J. was our defensive end. For example, in the goal line package that we had as well as some of that 12 personnel/heavier package that we had. I am really excited about a young player and just the physicality that he brings out there at the point of attack.  There were a couple times where he beat up some tight ends, pretty good tight ends, and a couple times he wore some tackles out. I mean he wore a tackle, against good player in my opinion, and C.J. got the best of him on a fourth down stop to allow Cam Jones to fall right back in there. The other play was when James Miller came on a split zone right back across and that tight end got his neck knocked back. Just the physicality of our defense in some of those critical moments was extremely exciting, from my perspective.

Q. On evaluating coaching job on Saturday…
WOMMACK: When we talked about this last week, I thought that Coach Ciarrocca did a great job of evaluating his personnel and trying to find creative ways to get his guys the ball, particularly Pat Freiermuth. I thought they were schematically built to try to get him the ball in different situations. Some things we had to adjust to were in the first series when they showed some gap schemes that we had never seen as they had not run it at Minnesota for two years. I think that was going back to his Western Michigan days so he pulled that one out of the way back of the closet. I thought we did a great job of adjusting to it. To be honest with you, I thought I called the game aggressive. I called it to win, you have to take some chances to win big games and I thought we did that up until the last three minutes of the game. We gave up a big play at the very end, that was inexcusable and it was my fault. I put us in a bad situation schematically in that and I have to do a better job for our players to give them a chance to go win us the football game and I did not think I did that on that call particularly. To me, when you look at a great defense, great defenses find a way to make the kill at the end. We use the analogy of a wolf pack and how they hunt but they only get rewarded if they can make the kill. You go back and look at Tennessee in the bowl game, you go look at the Penn State game with three minutes and 30 seconds left to go in the game and we were up 20 to 14. We have to learn how to make a kill, myself included, in terms of how we finish.

Q. On the locker room post game…
WOMMACK: I grew up in locker rooms like that my whole life. I have seen some somber locker rooms but have been around a lot of great ones and exciting ones. There is just a feeling when a group of men are committed to something, work so hard for something and get one moment to be rewarded for all that work and effort. It is euphoric, in a way, to me and as I get older, as I have done this more and more, a celebrated locker room is truly a sacred thing. It is important we do it and we do it well. I thought we did it well Saturday. It is a chance to celebrate, it is a chance to reward each other, ourselves and a chance to just really hug each other around the neck and say job well done. That was a special thing to be able to do.

QB Michael Penix Jr.
Q. On the last 24-36 hours…
PENIX: The last couple of days have been a lot of recovery and watching film. We watched the game together as a unit and I watched it on my own. We are going over things that we need to fix so that we can go out and execute at a higher level. We are glad that we got the win but there are a lot of things that need to be cleaned up.

Q. On social media followers…
PENIX: I got a couple more followers, but I do not really pay attention to it. Right now, today was the last day to go over corrections. Now we are just focused on the next week. This week we have Rutgers. That is all that I am really focused on. I do not get into the social media stuff all that much.

Q. On confidence from the end of the game…
PENIX: There were a lot of guys making some great plays. The offense kept a 1-0 mentality. Although we struggled at the beginning of the game and did not play our best football, we came together on the sideline. We talked together and decided to come out and do what we love and do it to the best of our abilities. That is all that we did, we kept that 1-0 mindset so we could come out and finish the game strong.